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the winding path

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Eve is 43, and 22

The sun is out. The birds are chirping. There is a thrum of possibility and hope in the air. 

If all these things weren’t disturbing enough, Eve has decided to go for a run. 

Look, she’s capable of making healthy life choices, alright? She is a 40something adult woman with her life mostly in order. She has a job. She has retirement funds. (Somewhere. She thinks.) She’s in a long-term committed relationship. She eats kale salads. (Sometimes. With dressing. And croutons.)

(And we’re not going to talk about how her job consists of either aiding or hindering the intelligence agency she used to work for, or that she’s in a long-term relationship with an only-somewhat reformed assassin. Or that she eats aforementioned salads only under great duress from said assassin girlfriend, because “you’re not getting any younger, Eve,” whatever that means.)

But also, more to the point, it has, over the last five years or so, really sunk in that remaining light on her feet can only help her. Because of her job, yes. Because of her much younger girlfriend and her seemingly endless stamina, also yes. 

But mostly, because she’s, you know, a time-traveler, and all the running from the cops/startled livestock/shocked strangers that is accordingly thrust upon her as she is dropped into random times and places does not leave much margin for error. Eve is never one to shy from a fight — as Villanelle has fondly/despairingly observed more than once — but honestly, sometimes it’s just easier to turn heel and run like hell. 

And so, here she is. Going for a run on a suspiciously cheerful Sunday morning while Villanelle continues to sleep dead to the world, having stirred just enough to crack a disgruntled eye when Eve’s alarm went off before burying her head back in the pillows. 

At least Victoria Park is massive and easy to get lost in, with plenty of running trails away from the crowds and families and toddling children that clog the gardens. 

(Not that crowds are an inherently bad thing, to be clear; they can be just the thing when trying to lose law enforcement after they caught you red-handed helping yourself to a few doughnuts at a shop in New Haven, Connecticut, in 1983, wearing nothing but a blanket and a pair of men’s boxers, as a random example). 

Right now, though, she really just wants her space. She’s always been her own best company; her affliction has pretty much demanded that she get self-sufficient and comfortable being on her own, in a relationship or not. 

So it is at a comfortable jog that she takes the secluded paths through the interior, settling into a contented pace that lets her mind turn as it wills, with nothing to break its winding path; the bright sunshine, the cool breeze, the lush foliage forming a canopy overhead all serving as a pleasant background for her thoughts—

She trips over an outstretched pair of legs. 

And falls ass over teakettle, sprawling to the ground. It is not graceful. 

She manages to get her elbows under her, turning herself onto her back and looking at the legs in astonishment.

Yep. They’re...well, they’re legs. Human legs, specifically. Stretched out across the dirt path, and definitely not there a moment ago. Attached to a body, as legs usually are. (One would hope. Although, this is not actually clear simply by sight alone, considering the fact that the owner of the legs is obscured by the large hedge said legs emerge from.)

Eve sits up warily, eyeing this unsolicited development with unease. Being cast as the unsuspecting jogger in a Law & Order: SVU episode — the one who finds the body along the path at the beginning of the show — really wasn’t part of her schedule today. 

But she also can’t just leave it, so...she slowly rises to her feet, taking a hesitant step closer. 

And stops short, her concern replaced with irritation and rising disbelief. 

Because laying in the hedge, making rather pathetic little groaning noises, is herself. 

Well, a much younger version of herself. Early twenties, at most. 

She stares at this rather unwelcome blast from the past for a moment before sighing and sinking into a crouch next to her hapless younger self — and grimaces. The stale beer and stronger spirits emanating from the girl is neither subtle nor especially pleasant. Eve hesitates for a moment before sighing again and pulling off her sweater, relieved she thought to wear a tank top under it.

“Hey.”

Young Eve doesn’t immediately reply.

Hey.”

The girl finally cracks open an eye, blinking slowly a few times before focusing properly on Eve. At the sight of her, her eyes snap back shut with a displeased groan. “Noooo.”

“Don’t even start,” Eve replies sourly. “I was having a nice run. You tripped me!”

Young Eve scowls. “Yeah, and I just got home. Now I’m...wherever the fuck I am. Laying in dirt. It feels like there’s an icepick in my head.”

“That sucks,” Eve says, insincere. “Wanna tell me where you just got home from ? You smell like the floor of a bar.”

“Oh my god, are you seriously trying to shame me right now? I’m you, asshole.”

“Don’t remind me,” Eve mutters. “And I’m not shaming you, okay, I’m just— can you put this on?”

She offers the sweater in an outstretched hand. 

The girl eyes the sweater before inspecting the rest of Eve’s outfit, her eyebrows slowly rising. “What are you wearing? Are those— are those bike shorts ?”

Her eyes drag down to Eve’s white Asics. “Oh my god. You’re wearing tennis shoes. You own bike shorts . You’re going for a run, presumably because you want to. Who are you?”

Eve may or may not enjoy throwing the girl’s words back at her, despite feeling herself redden. “I’m you, asshole. And these shorts are comfortable.”

“Right,” Young Eve says, sounding more than a little dubious. “Whatever.” But she takes the sweater from Eve, sitting up and finally pulling it on. (Eve sends up vague thanks that no one else has apparently picked this path to run — this would be a pretty impossible scene to explain.)

“So,” Young Eve says as she pulls the sweater over her head, her voice muffled by the cloth. “How old are you, anyway?”

“Forty-three,” Eve replies.

“Yikes.”

“Yeah, well, it’ll happen to you one day too. My tip? Use retinol.”

“Uh huh.” (There is little indication that the girl is actually listening.)

Eve rolls her eyes, but schools her expression by the time Young Eve emerges from the sweater, looking at least somewhat more normal and less alarming to the public now that she’s (semi) clothed. Eve looks at her for a moment. She really is so young. “How old are you?”

“Twenty-two.”

Oh god. An infant. “So you’ve...started the master’s program.”

Young Eve grimaces. “I just finished finals.”

Eve snorts. “Hence, coming from the floor of a bar.”

Young Eve winces, rubbing her forehead. “Yeah. Well, that, and then this girl from my program cohort, after. I had just managed to sneak out of her place. It’s gonna be...awkward.”

Eve just nods. Her younger self is right; it was awkward. Very. Eve is not good at returning calls when not interested, partially because of her condition — concocting excuses for her constant unexplained absences and working her way up to the big I'm A Time Traveler talk is hard enough with people she actually likes — and partially just because of who she is. It made the last year of the program...well. Awkward. 

But then her dad died halfway through the year and suddenly things like that didn’t really seem like such a big deal anymore. She would finish her degree, move to London, meet Niko, and things would unfold from there. All of it. The good, and the bad. Getting married. Getting divorced. MI6. Villanelle.

The depressing turn her thoughts have taken must show on her face, because Young Eve frowns at her. “What?” 

Eve opens her mouth to reply, but the girl is already rolling her eyes and talking over. “Oh, whatever, you won’t tell me, can’t tell me, et cetera. It’s fine.” She leans over to look out past Eve. “Don’t think I haven’t noticed that we’re not in America, by the way.”

Eve swallows. The girl in front of her has no idea where her life is going from here, no idea at all. “Eve.”

Young Eve looks at her, taken aback by Eve’s tone. “Yeah?”

“Take care of yourself, okay? And…” Eve tries to smile. “Have a good summer.”

“Uh, yeah, sure.” Young Eve peers at her. “Are you...okay?”

“I’m fine.” Eve rises to her feet. She remembers this trip now, remembers arriving in a hedge, hungover as hell, an older Eve appearing and handing her a sweater and then looking sad. “Just fine.”

She also remembers it’s about to end. 

Sure enough, Young Eve gasps, falling back into the dirt. 

“You’re gonna throw up when you get back to your apartment,” Eve informs her. Hangovers and time-traveling do not mix.

“Fuck,” Young Eve replies. 

And then she’s gone. 

Eve stares at the patch of dirt, empty now save for her sweater. After a long moment, she bends and retrieves it, shaking it out before pulling it back on. The cloth smells a bit like spilled beer now. She wonders how her younger self is doing. She knows, but she still wonders.

Her phone buzzes, disturbing her thoughts, and she pulls it out to see:

 

[V]: Are you almost done??

[V]: Eveeee I’m so hungryyyy

[V]: I want pancakes

 

She snorts, some of her melancholy dissipating.

 

[Eve]: Yeah. I’m on my way

 

[V]: Thank god. Bring chocolate chips!!

[V]: Also I got bored and went online shopping and just got us the cutest matching jackets, Eve

[V]: They’re leather. You’re gonna love them

 

Eve smiles, despite herself. 

 

[Eve]: I’m sure. I’ll get the chocolate chips

 

And then she tucks her phone away, giving the hedge a last glance before picking back up into a run, ready to leave the park and head home, to Villanelle — chocolate chips in hand.